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Propensities and Counterfactuals: The Loser That Almost Won

Propensities and Counterfactuals: The Loser That Almost Won Close counterfactuals are alternatives to reality that “almost happened.” A psychological analysis of close counterfactuals offers insights into the underlying representation of causal episodes and the inherent uncertainty attributed to many causal systems. The perception and representation of causal episodes is organized around possible focal outcomes, evoking a schema of causal forces competing over time. We introduce a distinction between two kinds of assessments of outcome probability: dispositions, based on causal information available prior to the episode; and propensities, based on event cues obtained from the episode itself. The distinction is critical to the use of almost, which requires the attribution of a strong propensity to the counterfactual outcome. The final discussion focuses on characteristic differences between psychological and philosophical approaches to the analysis of counterfactuals, causation, and probability. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Personality and Social Psychology American Psychological Association

Propensities and Counterfactuals: The Loser That Almost Won

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References (57)

Publisher
American Psychological Association
Copyright
Copyright © 1990 American Psychological Association
ISSN
0022-3514
eISSN
1939-1315
DOI
10.1037/0022-3514.59.6.1101
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Close counterfactuals are alternatives to reality that “almost happened.” A psychological analysis of close counterfactuals offers insights into the underlying representation of causal episodes and the inherent uncertainty attributed to many causal systems. The perception and representation of causal episodes is organized around possible focal outcomes, evoking a schema of causal forces competing over time. We introduce a distinction between two kinds of assessments of outcome probability: dispositions, based on causal information available prior to the episode; and propensities, based on event cues obtained from the episode itself. The distinction is critical to the use of almost, which requires the attribution of a strong propensity to the counterfactual outcome. The final discussion focuses on characteristic differences between psychological and philosophical approaches to the analysis of counterfactuals, causation, and probability.

Journal

Journal of Personality and Social PsychologyAmerican Psychological Association

Published: Dec 1, 1990

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